MANILA, Philippines — Perhaps it is because at least two holidays take place during the same period or because the children are off from school at this time of the year, but the last 10 days of the year always turn out to be the peak of travel season.
This is a worldwide phenomenon observed by travel app Agoda. People are always on the lookout for the best deals, and Agoda, analyzing the average room rates of tourist destinations from December 22 to 31, has come up with a list of the 10 most affordable destinations around Asia Pacific for Christmas and New Year.
The top spot goes to Hat Yai in Thailand, followed by Yogyakarta in Indonesia, Kuching in Malaysia, Dalat in Vietnam, and Goa in India to round out the Top 5. Baguio, which is the Philippines’ most affordable destination for the yearend, makes it to NO. 6, followed by Nagoya in Japan, Taichung in Taiwan, Melbourne in Australia, and Busan in South Korea. Average room rates vary from P2,450 in Hat Yai to P9,000 in Busan, with Baguio turning out an average room rate of P5,400.
“The year 2023 has seen a great resurgence in travel across Asia as people reconnect with friends, family and loved ones and that special end-of-year holiday window is likely to be no different,” said Enric Casals, Associate Vice President, Agoda.
He added: “But whether you’re on a solo adventure or making memories with loved ones, traveling during peak season means higher demand, so finding that special bargain can make all the difference. By highlighting the tourist destinations with the most affordable average accommodation rates, Agoda helps travelers, whatever their budget, celebrate the year-end in style.”
Being the lowest priced tourist destinations, however, does not mean these places are boring, uninteresting. Not at all. These researched destinations have a lot to offer and each has its own attractions and charms. Here are some of the highlights:
Hat Yai, Thailand (Average room rate: 43 USD)
Hat Yai is home to an abundance of trendy coffee shops, a vibrant nightlife, and delicious seafood. This southern city is known for its local cuisine and delicious seafood. Hat Yai is an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding countryside, to visit the stunning waterfalls of Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary, or to experience the traditional Thai culture of the Songkhla Old Town.
Hat Yai is home to a variety of festive events and decors in the month of December. Visit the Central Festival Hatyai shopping mall to see the giant Christmas tree and enjoy the Christmas lights show. Then there is Kim Yong Market for unique gifts and souvenirs.
Yogyakarta, Indonesia (Average room rate: 56 USD)
Yogyakarta is dubbed the “Cultural Heart of Java.” In December, it pulsates with rich Javanese culture and its remarkable historical sites, including the iconic Sultan’s Palace, Keraton Yogyakarta, beckon. The rich heritage blends seamlessly with its diverse population. Explore beautifully adorned churches and witness local Christmas traditions that showcase the harmony between diverse cultures.
For a serene year-end, places to visit include the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Prambanan’s ancient temples. Or head just 25 kilometers north to Kaliurang, where tranquil moments await with the stunning Mount Merapi as your backdrop. On New Year’s Eve, don’t miss the Alun-Alun Kidul (Southern Square) for the Yogyakarta Night Festival, where a dazzling fireworks show transforms the night into pure magic.
Kuching, Malaysia (Average room rate: 60 USD)
Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, is famous for its lively street markets, delicious street food, breathtaking nature scenery, and historic landmarks like the Sarawak Culture Village. It’s the perfect family getaway to embrace nature and make the most of your extra vacation days.
In December, Kuching turns into a festive wonderland, adorned in colorful lights and decorations. Stroll along the scenic Kuching Waterfront or join the annual Kuching Christmas parade for some festive fun. Don’t miss the iconic Padungan Roundabout Cat Statue that never fails to dress for the occasion. Locals and visitors alike gather at the lively Carpenter Street, where the vibrant nightlife takes on an extra layer of excitement during New Year’s Eve.
Dalat, Vietnam (Average room rate: 68 USD)
A charming mountain town, Dalat is a popular tourist destination year-round, but is especially worth a visit during the Christmas and New Year season. The town is transformed into a winter wonderland, with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and a joyful atmosphere.
The cool weather is ideal to explore the town’s hotspots, like the Crazy House, Xuan Huong Lake, and the flower-filled Valley of Love. Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, a family-friendly vacation, or a festive celebration, Dalat is a good place to visit during Christmas and New Year.
Goa, India (Average room rate: 92 USD)
Goa, the party haven of India, is renowned for its pristine beaches, bustling nightlife, vibrant marketplaces, and mouth-watering seafood. Often overlooked, the state also boasts of a tranquil side full of hidden treasures, making it an ideal spot for Christmas and New Year celebrations.
This year, enchanting Goa lets you rejoice in the state’s lush wilderness at Dudhasagar Waterfalls. Visit the Artjuna Cafe for immersive workshops, live music, and yoga sessions. Let your hair down at the Bonderam festival and celebrate New Year’s Eve the local way; or take a ferry down to Divar island for a laid-back day spent visiting heritage churches and gorging on local delights.
Baguio, the Philippines (Average room rate: 95 USD)
The cool, crisp air of Baguio sets it apart from the rest of the tropical country, earning the moniker “Summer Capital of the Philippines.” But make no mistake about it: Baguio and its varied idyllic and commercial offerings are travel hotspots all year long. Take in the sight of pine trees as you travel through the landscape for perennial tourist favorites such as Mines View Park and Camp John Hay. Baguio also has its own heritage of crafts and folk art, which recently earned it another distinction as a UNESCO Creative City. The city also has a vibrant thrifting scene at the Baguio Night Market where you can find the best vintage items.
Don’t leave Baguio without treating yourself to strawberries, which thrive in Benguet’s unique topography. From celebrating Christmas morning with strawberry taho (a Pinoy snack comprising soft tofu, syrup, and small tapioca balls called sago) to ringing in the new year with a toast of strawberry wine with your loved ones, a holiday in the highlands will surely be a core memory for the whole family.
Nagoya, Japan (Average room rate: 107 USD)
Nagoya, the fourth largest city in Japan, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination that offers something for everyone. During the Christmas and New Year’s Eve season, the city comes alive with festive illuminations, special events, and a festive atmosphere.
Nagoya is known for its stunning winter illuminations, which are some of the best in Japan. The city’s main thoroughfares and parks are transformed into magical winter wonderlands with millions of twinkling lights, like the Nabana no Sato botanical garden, and the illumination of the Sakae and Osu districts.
Taichung, Taiwan (Average room rate: 115 USD)
Taichung not only boasts of a rich historical and cultural heritage but is also brimming with awe-inspiring natural beauty. Known for its diverse range of tourist attractions and activities, Taichung caters to travelers of all types, whether you’re fond of exploring cultural relics, savoring delicious cuisine, or indulging in the wonders of nature.
A bonus: Taichung is set to host the Lishan Guguan Light Art Festival this December, spanning a month of enchanting light artistry. Alongside the spectacular light displays, the festival features a plethora of performances and musical events, infusing a lively ambiance into the entire celebration. Visitors can bask in the beauty of the illuminated artworks while enjoying live music performances or take part in dance shows and art workshops.
Melbourne, Australia (Average room rate: 155 USD)
Melbourne has long been dubbed Australia’s “Cultural Gem” due to its dynamic art scene, lively sporting events, world-famous artisan coffee, and thriving nightlife. During Christmas time and the school holidays, the seaside metropolis comes alive with family-friendly delights, too. From Christmas markets to world-class sporting events like the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, Melbourne caters to all budgets.
With the world’s fourth largest tram system, Melbourne is a great destination to explore on foot. Whether it’s glorious beaches you’re after or to get lost in bustling Federation Square, there’s always something happening in vibrant Melbourne.
Busan, South Korea (Average room rate: 158 USD)
Busan is a coastal destination true to its name, with a combination of beautiful beaches, modern skyscrapers, traditional markets, and cozy café alleys. For a rare chance to see the diverse cityscape at a single glance, you can visit Busan X the SKY, the observatory on the top floor of the second highest building in Korea, located on Haeundae Beach. If you prefer a more tranquil experience, take a walk along the Dalmaji-gil Road, dotted with small, charming cafes that boast magnificent views of the blue ocean.
How about a unique winter festive lights experience by the sea? Gwangalli Beach holds the Gwangalli Marvelous Drone Light Show every Saturday evening. It is a weekly spectacle that displays a jaw-dropping array of drone lights spread across the clear winter night sky.